There are many reasons for malnutrition in cancer patients, including the effect of the tumor, effect of treatment, or psychological issues such as depression. The growth of tumors in the digestive system may induce blockage, lead to nausea and vomiting, or cause poor digestion or absorption of nutrients.
Cancer therapies and their side effects may also lead to nutrition difficulties. For example, following surgery, malabsorption of protein and fat may occur. In addition, there may be an increased requirement for energy due to infection or fever.
Cancer patients should maintain an adequate intake of fluids, energy, and protein. The patient's nutrient requirements can be calculated by a dietitian or doctor because requirements vary considerably from patient to patient.
Enteral nutrition may be administered through a nose tube (or surgically placed tubes) for patients with eating difficulties due to upper gastrointestinal blockage such as difficulty swallowing, esophageal narrowing, tumor, stomach weakness, paralysis, or other conditions that preclude normal food intake. If the gastrointestinal tract is working and will not be affected by the cancer treatments, then enteral support is preferable. Parenteral nutrition (most often an infusion into a vein) can be used if the gut is not functioning properly or due to other reasons that prevent enteral feeding.
Crystal Heather Kaczkowski MSc., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,